Admit it, if you weren't involved in the planning of the 2021 Grammys, you had no idea how they were going to pull off a socially distanced take on music's biggest, most increasingly polarizing night.
It's one thing for actors to stay home and say witty things from their couches, or for a host to spin a lengthy monologue into the camera, but the Grammy Awards are about the live performances, the capital-M Moments that never fail to unfold, the GIF-able shots of your favorite artists dancing to their favorite artists. Sure, there are 70 categories, but only a relative fraction of the time is devoted to actually handing out awards.
At least with Trevor Noah hosting and Ben Winston, co-executive producer of The Late Late Show With James Corden and its infectious "Carpool Karaoke" segments at the helm of the only three-and-a-half-hour CBS broadcast (because, you know, they shortened it this year), the Grammys had a fighting chance of being entertaining.
And the team came out swinging.
For starters, it was the first major awards show to be held primarily outdoors (tip of the hat to Los Angeles winters!), allowing for more interaction(-ish) between presenters and winners, and more people were present at this show than were at the Emmys last September (all cardboard cutouts and Jason Bateman) or even the bicoastal Golden Globes that were held just two weeks ago.
"This is not a Zoom background, this is real," Noah said, referring to Staples Center behind him, as he kicked off the televised portion of the ceremony. He proceeded to give a tour of the complicated layout, starting with the airy tent-shaded courtyard where the attendees were sitting—wearing masks, at tiny tables for two, as opposed to sitting concert-style inside as they usually do—and then showing off the performance area.
And music, even if some of it wasn't live-live, never fails to bring the feelings to an occasion, so the Grammys always have a running start when it comes to the assurance that someone will be moved by something.
They still, rather impressively, managed to feature nearly two dozen performances, from Post Malone, Dua Lipa and Haim in the house to Lil Baby and BTS elsewhere in the world, near and far. And this was also easily the least screen-heavy of the shows so far this year, with no one accepting their awards (again, during the televised part) from home and the performances looking as they always do to the folks at home.
And while we, as much as anybody, hope that this is the only awards season that looks remotely like this (sure, pun intended, why not) and proceeds to last into April, even a pandemic-delayed, half-outdoor, half-pretaped show had all the joy, tears and history you could want in a Grammys ceremony. So here are the jaw-dropping moments from last night: